I’m going to take what could be a long post and condense it to less than long, but I don’t know how well that works because some of the side effects of dilaudid, the narcotic I’m on right now, are rambling and a loss for words.
This is what is happening: I now live in the hospital until my mouth and throat have healed. I am hooked up to this machine that I will have to wear in a fanny pack if I can find a fanny pack. It delivers a continuous dose of dilaudid and I can push a button twice every hour for some walloping ‘breakthrough’ doses. This will control my pain (eventually, I mean, as I am currently in agony for reasons that will be explained below).
Even though I have to live in the hospital for x number of days, I can get passes to leave the hospital, which means I can sign myself out and visit the outside world. After today, I will do this with my fanny pack full of drugs, but today I had to do that for almost four hours without pain medication. I was nearly passing out at the end of that, but the decision to forego pain control was an easy one to make.
Last night I woke up around 3:30 a.m. in very bad pain. It is hard to control your pain at night because you fall asleep and don’t know to ask your nurse to give you some drugs when the pain starts creeping up, and instead you wake up with your mouth and throat on fire and your eyes watering and a sort of dizziness that you get when something hurts more than you knew a thing could hurt.
When I woke up, I grabbed my phone to see what sort of messages I had received while I was slipped past consciousness, and just when I did that, it started to ring because Beck (my sister) was calling me. Well, it vibrated because the ringer was turned off, but anyway I couldn’t answer it because my finger was wet from my glass of water and it just slid across the glass. And then it stopped vibrating but I knew it was not a good thing that she was calling, and then she called again and this time I was able to answer.
She was clearly trying not to cry when she told me something was wrong with Salome, that she had been whining and didn’t stop after she went out for a pee and that then she wasn’t able to walk because her hind legs kept giving out and she was falling over and I started crying and then Beck didn’t try to hide it and we talked about what to do. Salome is 13 and a half and that means I’ve had her more than a third of my life, since I was 19 and suddenly I was in a hospital bed and talking about how I would make sure to be there if she had to be put down in the morning. And then I was calling friends at 4:00 a.m. asking if they could drive my sister and dog to the vet in the morning because we thought Salome had a stroke. I was sobbing and hiccupping and the nurse was rubbing my back and giving me a hug and everything was so terrible.
So this morning I talked to my new oncologist, Dr. Siu, and she already knew about the dog and told me I could get a pass so I could go and be with her if she had to be euthanized or just see her in person to know if she was okay. And my room was visited by four, five, maybe six doctors and a couple nurses and they all knew already about my dog and were so concerned, and then Dr. M, my former oncologist who I saw for six years, came in and she asked me how I was feeling physically and I laughed and said not the best.
Then Dr. M introduced me to an oncology fellow who she was with and said, This is the patient who gets all the rarest complications — anything you think is unlikely, she will get. And then we talked about how no one else in the study has reacted like this, and that everything going on in my mouth and my throat, the fever and everything else, are all just side effects, that there is no bacterial infection. That part is complicated and I won’t go into it. But I am reacting in a way no one else has and maybe it has to do with my age or maybe it’s just me. And I mentioned that I had a pass to leave the hospital today, and she said, Yes, I heard about your dog, have you had any news, and I started crying and then she hugged me and rubbed my back and I sobbed that the vet said she was seeming better and he thought that it may be she’s just lost her coordination because of a terrible ear infection but he had to run more tests and I would find out more later.
More people came and went through my room and I chatted with my roommate, a 73-year-old with a brain tumor who goes out for walks and visits and meals with friends all the time, and who is just a fantastic person to share a room with. We’ve talked a lot about illness and family and friends and how to live a meaningful life and she told me she would pray for my doggy. And we both got our day passes and left the hospital and our nurse without patients for the day.
Salome will be fine, I think, she is just as puppyish and healthy-looking as I’ve ever seen, and when the vet brought her to me and sang her praises, I burst into tears because I was so happy I didn’t have to kill my dog today.